I am continuing with my favorite chess opening Ruy Lopez. Today we'll see modern or so called "Berlin" variation reintroduced by Russian Grand Master Vladimir Kramnik. He used this variation to defeat the most famous player at his time Gary Kasparov. Even present chess champion Magnus Carlsen plays it from time to time.

Like we saw in previous articles it's starting with those moves:

  1. e4, e5  2. Nf3, Nc6  3. Bb5, Nf6 4. 0-0 Ne4

For entering in this variation white need to play now d4 following by black Nd6. Black is attacking white light Bishop knowing white will probably initiate Bishop-Knight exchange and try to get e5 pawn. This looks bad for black to me as amateur player because Knights are blocking pawns, but I guess chess Grand Masters know what they are doing.

5. d4, Nd6

6. Bc6, d7-c6 7. e4, Nf5 8. Qd8, Kd8

Black has doubled f pawns now and have one more on right side, but white has one more clear pawn on left side. However black has 2 Bishops which are stronger than 2 Knights or Knight and Bishop in such open positions, but has lost ability to do castle. Queen exchange in early stage of the game against great attacker like Kasparov was good approach for Kramnik. The most powerful piece is out of play. Once in the past main move after this was Rd1 check after which black would just move King back to e8. Disadvantage of this move for white is fact that other Rook from h1 will have very little space to develop. d1 should be his field not of Rook from a1. White looks better now, but his weakness is e5 pawn which is over advanced and will be hard to defend. Goal for white would be to exchange peaces because he has clear pawn advantage on left side, while black is equal or have slight advantage when all peaces are on the board.

White can try Ng5 too threatening to f7 and double King-Rook attack, but black can just move his King back to e8. Correct way to continue this variation is:

9. h3, Ke8 10. Nc3, h5 11. Bf4, Be7 12. Rd1, Be6 13. Ng5, Rh6


Plans are clear, black wants to attack while white wants to exchange pieces. White put right Rook to d1 and want to take Bishop on e6 after which black would take Knight with his Rook from a6. Removing pawn on c7 would not be to smart from white because he would give Bishop plus Knight for Rook and black will remain with 2 dangerous Bishops and clear b line. It's not non playable, but I think black would be in better position because of more peaces.

However the most playable continuation from move 9 between Grand Masters is

9. Nc3, Ke8 10. h3, h5 11. Bf4, Be7 12. Rd1, Be6 13. Ng5 Rh6

and we came to same position like above.

If we want to avoid this Berlin variation we can return to position before white did castle. We see another solid move which is d3 protecting e4 pawn and giving white dark Bishop chance to develop.

4. d3 Bc5 5. c3 0-0 6. 0-0 d6 7. Nd2, a6 8. Ba5, b5 9. Bc2 Bb6 10. d4


Now black tries to move Knight from c6 to b1 and finally to d7, while white will try Rook e1 and then Nf1-g3-f5.

I hope you enjoyed this article. Thanks for reading.